Cooking with Villa Plus – Afelia – Cyprus Special #VPeats

Afelia – one dish four ways
Afelia – one dish four ways

I had been challenged!

Oh, ok, not only me… 10 of us, UK bloggers were challenged by Villa Plus to recreate dishes from all over the world. Chosen destinations included: Corfu, Lanzarote, Majorca, Algarve and my favourite Cyprus.

I’ve never visited Cyprus, so I thought it will be a great opportunity to learn a little bit about this country, especially its food 🙂. From what I’ve read it is a beautiful and “tasty” place.

afelia recipeMy dish for the challenge is Afelia. For everyone who doesn’t know what it is – Afelia is a traditional Cypriot food – slowly cooked pork marinated in red wine and coriander.

Like with every meal, sourcing the ingredients is key, especially when you are on holiday and you try to recreate this authentic local taste – please do not rush to shop at the superstore, go for a wonder… have an adventure and I am sure you will find a local market on your travels, who sell locally sourced products.

Me, I visited my local butcher, in order to procure a nice piece of happy meat…

Trip to my local butcher

… and my local farm shop to stock up on the greens.

HillFoot Farm Shop

But let’s start from the beginning…

Afelia Ingredients

Step one – ingredients list!

  • 1kg pork belly, cubed
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 glass of dry red wine
  • Half a glass of olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds, crushed
  • Half a teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper

As you can see from the ingredients list this is a very simple recipe.

It doesn’t require a lot of ingredients and it is budget friendly. I’ve paid £10.70 for just over 1kg of pork belly (yes, I know that supermarket has much lower prices but we would rather eat less but good quality food… shopping at our local butcher gives us full confidence that our meat is as good as it can get). Cost of wine £5.50, onions £0.30, olive oil £0.50… Total spend £17. I have not taken into account with all my calculations all the other bits as we already had them. This meal will feed 8, so price per head is just over £2, but… on the plus side you already have an almost full bottle of wine to go with your dinner, so no need worrying about drinks 😉

Depending how organized you are and how long you want meat to marinate, the dish will take anything from 4 hours up to 24+ hours to prepare from start to finish.

It is a very easy recipe so you do not require a lot of “tools” in order to make it. All you need is an oven, frying pan, and a casserole dish… a knife, cutting board and few bowls and plates… oh and a fridge, so your meat has a nice cool place for marinating.

So where do you start?

Preparing the meat

Preparing the meat

Once you are the lucky owner of a nice piece of pork belly it is time to cut it to shape.

If you bought your meat with skin, I would suggest removing it and if, like Mark, you are a huge fan of pork crackling cook it separate; if not just discard it.

Wash your meat and cut it into cubes.

Size is up to you. We went for two bites size, so our cubes might look a bit big to some but this is just the way we like it.

Preparing the marinade

Preparing the marinade

The marinade is very easy, really… it couldn’t be any easier. You will need a glass of wine – dry red ideally, 2 bay leaves and 2 tablespoons of crushed coriander seeds.

Mix all ingredients and job jobbed, you‘ve just created a perfect Afelia marinade.

Marinating process

Marinating process

Now when your meat is cut into your desired size and the marinade is waiting beside you, it is time to mix these two together.

Place your meat in an air tight container – a bowl, plastic tab or a sealable (food safe) bag – and add the marinade. Give it a good stir/shake to make sure that it is evenly spread out and fully coated in the marinade.

Place in the fridge and do not forget to stir/shake it from time to time.

The longer you leave it, the better the results. Minimum marinating time is around 3 hours, but it will be best if left in the fridge over night.

Searing the meat stage

Searing the meat stage

Once the marinating time is up, it is a good moment to start cooking.

Turn the oven on to around the 160°C (325°F) area.

You will need a large frying pan and some olive oil (or, if like us, you cooked the pork skin in order to have some homemade crackling, you can use the drippings, which dripped out from it).

Heat up the oil, drain the meat but save the marinade and fry your pork cubes for few minutes on each side to brown them.

You want them to be seared, golden brown but not yet cooked completely through.

Once done place your meat in the casserole dish you will use in the final stage of cooking.

Apparently this dish should be cooked in a clay oven or at least clay pot but regular oven and regular casserole dish will work as well, so do not worry about this too much.

Preparing the onions

Preparing the onions

You will need two large sliced onions that will need to be fried a bit, until soft and translucent.

We fried them using the same frying pan and remaining fat left over after searing the meat.

Once done, place them in your casserole dish.

Finishing touches

Finishing touches

At this stage almost everything is ready… all is left it to bring all the ingredients together. We have meat and onions already in our casserole dish, so what we need to add now is the cinnamon, salt, pepper and of course our marinade. Once the other ingredients have been added mix it nicely and put into the earlier pre-heated oven at 160°C (325°F) for about 1 hour.

And this is all she wrote.

Now, all you have to do is wait… remember, you still have some remaining wine, so pour yourself a glass and relax while dinner is bubbling away in the oven or use this time and decide what to have it with…

Our serving suggestions

Afelia with rice and salad

Afelia with rice and salad

Afelia with couscous and fried vegetables

Afelia with couscous and fried vegetables

Afelia with pita bread* and salad

Afelia with homemade pita bread and salad

Afelia with vegetable kebab and toasted garlic bread

Afelia with veggie kebab and toasted garlic bread

So, what do you think?

Sounds tempting or not for you?

*This pita bread was cooked on top of the hob in the frying pan used to fry / sear meat and veggies. No oven or pizza stone were involved this time, hence less puffiness and more colour.

** I was reimbursed the cost of the ingredients for this challenge.

What’s Cooking – Homemade Pita Bread

The wonder of the Pitta Bread
The wonder of the Pitta Bread

Every now and then you remember something that is easy to make yet makes a wonderful versatile meal that you wonder how on earth you could ever forget about it.

This happened the other day when rooting through the cupboards trying to figure out what to have for dinner. We had tomatoes and a bunch of fresh coriander and even a couple of avocados that had unbelievably finally gone soft. So salsa and guacamole where on the cards, but what to have with it? A couple of chicken breasts recovered from the back of the freezer and an onion and a lettuce procured from the local shop and a meal was forming. All that is required is a vessel to carry all this lovely food from plate to mouth for munching, and that was when it happened, the penny dropped and voila the concept of pitta breads was remembered.

With the right equipment the humble pitta bread is a super easy, fun and surprisingly tasty bread; let me now remind you how easy they are.

What you will need to make a dozen:

  • 450g of strong white bread flour
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 30g of fresh yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 260ml of water
  • A good glug of olive oil

Optional – for variety just before kneading add some toasted sesame seeds, poppy seeds or chilli flakes, you have a blank canvas so experiment!

Now the process required to make them. I trust you are the proud owner of a pizza stone, if not go get one they are brilliant especially for baking. If not you will need to find something big and heavy that you can use such as a heavy baking sheet or even a cast iron frying pan etc. Whatever you choose pop it into the oven near the top of the oven and turn the heat up to around the 230C or 450F or gas mark 8.

Put the water in a jug and pop into the micro wave and nuke for 45 seconds so that it is warm but not hot. Add the sugar and yeast and give a good stir till everything is dissolved and put somewhere warm for five minutes.

Sift the flour into your mixing bowl and through the salt in and pour the olive oil over the top. When your yeast mix is bubbling away and starting to foam when stirred throw that into the bowl as well. Now if you have a food mixer, with a dough hook beat for five to ten minutes till the dough is smooth and elastic. If you don’t own a mixer then time to get your hands messy!

When the dough is finished being kneaded then coat the inside of a clean bowl with olive oil and the ball of dough, place in the bowl and cover with cling film and a T-towel and place somewhere draft free and warm till its doubled in size.

Lightly flour your work top and place the risen dough in the middle. You now need to punch it till all the air has been knocked out of it. Knead by hand for a couple of minutes and then shape it into a log. Use a knife to cut into half and then again each piece into half. Finally cut each of the four sections into thirds to make twelve balls of dough all roughly the same size. Cover with your cling film again and leave for another 15 minutes to relax.

Again, lightly dust your work top and take a ball of dough, squash it down and press it flat. With a rolling pin roll out the ball till it’s roughly pitta bread shape, dust with flour and set aside, repeat with the other eleven balls of dough. When done cover and leave till ready to cook.

almost time...

Just before cooking uncover the pitta bread and re-roll out if they have shrunk.

off to the oven they go

When the oven has been up to temperature for a while place a couple of the pitta breads on the pizza stone (or iron pan, baking sheet etc) and cook on one side for 3 minutes and then flip them over and cook for another 2 minutes.

What a beauty

Look upon your creations and marvel at the way they have puffed up perfectly and be sure to call the family to your side so they can marvel at the wonder too! Remove them from the oven and wrap in a clean T-towel till ready to eat.

Cut a slot in the side of one and pack with your chicken, salad, guacamole, salsa and maybe a spot of soured cream and grated cheese!

Delicious!

Our Pita Bread

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